Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Allotment Gardening Builds Community

My name is Gavin from the blog The Greening of Gavin. Sharon has asked me to write a post while she is away on holidays so here goes.

I live in a town called Melton West, Victoria, Australia. In our town you will be surprised to learn that there are no garden allotments like you have in the UK, which is quite a shame. I think the main reason behind it is that most houses are built on at least 500 square metres of land, and the local council sees no need in providing vegetable patch spaces when everyone has land to spare. The ironic thing is that at least 40% of the town folk rent their accommodation, so are loathed to develop a veggie patch in their landlords back yard for no compensation.

Now while I agree that they might not receive any form of monetary compensation for making a vegetable patch in the back yard, I really think that they are missing the point. I have found that you don't need to spend very much money at all to get a vegetable garden up and running. You only have to sheet mulch the area that you intend to plant out and then make some borders out of anything you can lay your hands on (there are heaps of old railway sleepers besides the railway tracks), and voila, you have a garden bed. Just whack on some manure from wherever you can get it (farmers will give it to you for $2 a bag over here), then add a mulch, even grass clippings will do, and bung in your seeds. They will grow with a bit of water and TLC, and before you know it, you have free food. Now if I was in a rental situation, free food sounds like a good proposition. Even growing vegetables in pots is a good idea. The money you save on healthy, organic produce can be put towards the deposit for your own home, or anything you like really. You could even buy a chook tractor, and keep chickens in the back yard. Free eggs from kitchen scraps and a bit of seed also is a good deal as far as I am concerned.

Earlier I said that it is a shame that we do not have allotments. The reason I say that is that this town lacks a community spirit outside of joining a sporting club. No everyone are sporting types, and most are armchair spectators (watch it on telly). For keen gardeners, it is hard to find like minded people, and I think that a community allotment would go a long way to achieving that. I believe that when gardeners get together, there is always a keen sense of competition about their how they grow their produce. Who can grow the biggest tomatoes, who's squash is the tastiest and largest, who can grow the most potatoes. You get the idea. By having this meeting place for gardeners, who all share ideas, and tips and tricks, growing your own food is a practice that is kept alive and well in the community. A great sense of pride is also kept alive and well. It is a sense of pride that also build a healthy and thriving local community.

Do you know how I know all of this? Well, I am married to Kim who originally comes from Southampton, Hampshire and that city has a huge allocation of allotments. When I lived in the UK for 6 months, I used to walk past them quite often, and there were always people tending their patches and talking to one another about this and that. It warmed my heart to see people who probably don't even know their neighbours, and taking the time to talk to fellow gardeners. That is how communities get built and towns with a sense of community thrive in troubled times like these and are much more resilient. People who talk to each other, learn more about each others lifestyle, and therefore look out for one and another.

So, don't let anyone take these wonderful meeting places away from you in the UK. If your council thinks they can get rid of the community allotment space, let them know that you care about your part of the world.



Image Credit: Catfunt


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L-Jay said...

I always thought garden allotments were strange. You'd be walking along in the city and all of a sudden you'd be next to a series of 4x4 garden patches. If people like gardens so much why don't they move to the country?

However, life is never that simple, is it? I actually live in the country and you'd think I'd have a garden but nope - that's because it would be covered by ice and snow two-thirds of the Norway tends to be like that ;).

In Oz it has become popular to have organic community gardens where everyone can go and 'til' or buy fresh produce. The money goes to replenishing the garden, organic vegie awarness and also charity. Cool.

Cabbage Heart said...

Hey-ya Gavy, Yes gather around planet dwellers, gav speaks of truth for he is wise beyond his years and you should heed his words. I agree with you Gav, garden plots do give a sense of community and we are lucky in one sense in Oz to be able to have a decent block of land to grow food in our own backyard. Even in UK there is trouble climate, but these garden plots are everywhere and it doesnt take much to grow your own in a pot! Heck I do! Im a renter with a huge block, but grow my own in a pot.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

Lovely to see you over here Gavin. I totally agree with you. I gardened for many years in New Zealand where, like Aussie, most folk have enough space in their back garden to give them a family garden. Now living in the UK I still have a big back garden but have friends who have an allotment. I get more 'garden chat' when I visit them than I do behind the fence at home. And the demand in the UK for alloments is growing.

Sharon J said...

It's almost impossible to get an allotment these days as 'everybody' wants to grow their own fruit and veg but still want to have an ornamental garden and the stamp sized garden we have in towns here aren't big enough for both.

@ Cabbage Heart. I'm really hoping I'll be strong enough by spring to do some pot veggie gardening. I mean, I can probably plant them up ok, but it's being able to maintain them on a regular basis that I'm mostly worried about. I'm crossing fingers though :)

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